The Bigger Picture Surrounding the Drupal Controversy

The Bigger Picture Surrounding the Drupal Controversy

This has not been a fun couple of weeks in the Drupal community.

If you’ve missed the events, you can catch up with this list of links. There’s dozens of articles in that list, plus hundreds more think-pieces, tweets and Reddit posts.

You don’t need me to add to another opinion on what happened.

Instead, I’d like to try and situate this controversy into the broader flow of recent events.

There have been many controversies in Drupal before, so why did this one blow up in such spectacular fashion?

Perhaps it was the central role of Larry Garfield in the community, or perhaps it was the sensational aspects of the story. Perhaps. But there’s more to this picture.

The week before this Drupal controversy broke, I wrote that 2017 is the most interesting year in the history of Drupal. That post was positively received, including by Dries:

However, interesting times bring excitement, but also tension and stress. You can sense those feelings in the Drupal community right now, for these reasons and more:

  • Drupal 8 adoption has been noticeably slower than with other versions.
  • Dries changed a fundamental Drupal principle and promised that all future upgrades would be smooth.
  • Drupal seems to be changing it’s audience towards enterprise users, with a heavier reliance on developer tools such as Composer.
  • The Drupal Association has been struggling with financial problems and leadership changes.
  • Ambitious ideas, such as experimental modules in the core, haven’t yet worked out as well as hoped.
  • Some big Drupal agencies have struggled to maintain their rapid growth, and some have shrunk or left the market.

Some of these are positive moves, and all of these problems are fixable, but there’s a lot of change going on right now.

Here at OSTraining, our rooting interest is clear: we’re heavily invested in Drupal 8. Our Drupal 8 Beginner class has over 1.2 million views on YouTube, and our team is producing lots of fresh D8 material.

Drupal is far from alone in having these testing times. Every company and software project goes through trials like these. The most likely outcome is still that DrupalCon Baltimore allows the community to clear the air, Drupal 8.4 produces several great new features, and the community rallies behind Drupal 8.

But that bright future is not yet assured, and this recent controversy dropped into a community that was already nervous.


After DrupalCon Baltimore, I do indeed feel better about the future of Drupal.

I talked again with some people who were feeling pessimistic in 2016. Almost all of them feel more optimistic in 2017. Many of them saw an upsurge in interest during the first few months of this year. Our Beginner training could have sold out 3 times over, which is very unusual, and the conference itself was the bigger DrupalCon in several years.

You could visibly see the increased interest in Drupal 8 at Baltimore. Our Beginner training could have sold out 3 times over, which is very unusual. Almost all the other trainings were sold out too. Plus, the conference itself was the largest DrupalCon in several years.


  • Steve Burge

    Steve is the founder of OSTraining. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. Steve's work straddles the line between teaching and web development.

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“Some big Drupal agencies have struggled to maintain their rapid growth, and some have shrunk or left the market.”
I did not know that. What are the reasons? Lower down the market, the competition from WordPress grows only stronger. D8, though an odd mix of old-school Drupal with Symfony and and OOP generally, and possibly too complex to attract users who cannot afford a Drupal professional, seems a good product for larger sites.

geek dmb

Can’t say if it’s good but at least that’s what the target is; high profile larger sites, more enterprise level adaption. Hence, the backdrop fork is there for medium and small sites. For hobbyist level coder. Never used neither but you are right about the WP getting even more stronger. Recently used it for a simple, non-profit site. And I am supposedly a Drupal guy. Go figure.


“Some big Drupal agencies have struggled to maintain their rapid growth, and some have shrunk or left the market.”
After watching the Youtube of the Camerong & Wilding presentation of their Drupal Agency survey at DrupalCon Dublin, I am not sure this is even true, in spite of the frustrations with unready contrib modules. Though if there evidence for the statement, anecdotal or otherwise, it would be interesting to hear it.
The numbers for D8 core usage at [url=]…[/url] are far lower than D7. That does not tell us much about what the big Drupal shops are doing.


@John_W_B Sorry, no public evidence that I can share. These agencies never make public announcements. They shift direction by updating their websites to focus on other topics and technologies.


@John_W_B There’s probably a few reasons, including some agencies growing so fast that a contraction was inevitable. There’s also competition at the high-end from more decoupled options, and most of the agencies are doing a lot more Javascript work.

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